________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007


Kou-Skelowh = We Are the People: A Trilogy of Okanagan Legends. Rev. ed.

Illustrated by Barbara Marchand.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2004.
87 pp., pbk., $16.95.
ISBN 1-894778-18-9.

Subject Headings:
Okanagan Indians-Legends.
Legends-British Columbia.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Gail de Vos.

** /4



"Fox will be given the special power to bring you back to life when you are killed. Even if all your bones are scattered all over, if one hair remains, Fox can step over it and bring you back to life. Go now and try to behave and do good. You are an important person now," the Great Spirit said, sending Coyote away.

The Great Spirit watched Coyote go. He knew how Coyote was. He knew that Coyote would not do a perfect job. He knew Coyote would make mistakes, and there would still be some hardships and sorrows for the People-to-Be. However, it was very important that everything on earth be given a purpose. (From
"How Names were Given.")


This new compilation of these formerly published tales has been revised to include the Okanagan language in which they were originally told and includes an editorial note from the publisher recognizing the care and respect in which the traditional stories have been put into print for the eyes of others. When the collection was originally reviewed in CM, October 1992, the reviewer did not seem to realize that, although these stories echo the mythology of other First Nations people, they are unique in their telling to the Okanagan people and should be revered for what they are rather than for what they are not.

internal art     The three stories demonstrate lessons on sharing and respect for individuals and the environment. The animal and plant people are given authorization to decide how food will be provided for the People-to-Be in the first tale while, in the second, Coyote's plans to be named chief of all the Animal People is derailed by the Great Spirit who has other plans for him. The final story, reminiscent of the Aesop fable of the rabbit and the hare, explains how turtle freed the Animal People from Eagle with the help of a dream.

     The text, written with a hearty oral cadence, is accompanied by the original illustrations: colourful watercolours which offer a strong hint of the power and personality of the animal characters involved. I found the line by line inclusion of the Okanagan language unwieldy and would have preferred it in blocks of print separate from the English translation.

      Libraries that do not have the 1999 compilation which was an Our Choice designate from the Children's Book Centre will want to add this version.


Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and is the author of six books on storytelling and folklore.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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